If you would like to discover more about an individual prisoner of war, the following information may be of interest.
British and Commonwealth Personnel
Prisoner of War Lists
A number of popular genealogy websites offer information about individual British prisoners of war, however they all draw from the following reference books which I own and am happy to divulge information from for free; Prisoners of War Armies and Other Land Forces of The British Empire 1939-45, Prisoners of War British Army 1939-45, and Prisoners of War Naval And Air Forces of Great Britain and The Empire 1939-45. Between them these books list every British and Empire serviceman who was a prisoner of war in German hands during the final months of the war; though any who died, escaped or were repatriated beforehand are sadly not included. I also have similar records for British and Empire prisoners of war in Italian hands. Both list the surname and initials of each prisoner, their rank, army/service number, prisoner of war number, corps or regiment of army personnel, and the last known camp in which they were officially believed to be held. If you would like me to look up the details of an individual, write to email@example.com and supply as much of the above information as you are aware of to help with identification.
Service records are a superb place to begin any research as they establish all of the basic facts about an individual, such as all of the units they served with and when, promotions, overseas service, etc. Some records of the Second World War era are now beginning to enter the public domain and will soon be available for perusal at the National Archives, and in time will likely become available on genealogy websites. Many, however, will not enter the public domain for some years and will therefore remain accessible only to the individual concerned or their next of kin. To apply for a service record, see https://www.gov.uk/get-copy-military-service-records
The International Red Cross Commission
The Red Cross hold brief records for prisoners of war which should include a complete list of all the camps in which they were held, unlike the reference books mentioned in the Prisoner of War Lists paragraph above which only record the last known camp in which they were believed to be held. You can apply for the record via https://www.icrc.org/en/archives, though do bear in mind that the Red Cross naturally have more pressing priorities than processing research requests, and so it may take a long time.
The National Archives
The National Archives in London holds a considerable array of documents which may help your research, the elements which are most likely to be useful have been highlighted below, but I am also compiling a list of all documents relating to POW's of the Second World War that I can find, and will be making these available below as pdf's when I complete a particular series. A minority of these records have been digitised and can be purchased and downloaded through their website, however the vast majority remain in the form of the original document which can only be viewed in person at the Archives. Their staff offer a copying service and will send you scans of requested documents, though sadly their fees are quite substantial, however I regularly go to the Archives myself and will photograph any documents you require, at a cost of £10 per small document (i.e. an individual Record Card or a single POW Questionnaire), or £15 for a complete document up to 200 pages plus £10 per additional 100 pages thereafter.
All returning British prisoners of war from Europe and the Far East were supposed to complete a three-page questionnaire to give some information about their time in captivity. Not all of them did and the response they gave vary greatly, from the bare minimum to the extremely detailed. While they can, therefore, be very hit and miss, they nevertheless have the potential to be the most thorough and illuminating record that can be found for an individual POW, and so it is certainly worth checking. The documents can be found in the WO 344 catalogue and are organised alphabetically and by region, i.e. Germany is covered from WO 344/1/1 (surnames Aalbers to Abrahams J) to WO 344/359 (Zaaiman to Zvolensky), and Japan from WO 344/361/1 (Aaron to Alesbrook) to WO 344/410/2 (Woulfe-Flanaghan to Zuzarte). If you would like me to obtain one for you, then I must ask you to bear very firmly in mind that there is no guarantee that the requested questionnaire exists in the appropriate file, but I shall nevertheless require £10 in advance to search for it, as I am restricted in the number of documents I can request during a single day, and so any document taken out is one less that I can order, therefore I must apply a fee whether it contains anything or not.
The Archives hold the original record cards for British and Commonwealth prisoners of war, including some civilian internees. Japanese cards can be searched for in the WO 345 catalogue, and German cards in WO 416 catalogue.
Escape and Evasion
Servicemen who either escaped from enemy hands or evaded capture were typically interviewed by MI9. The detailed reports which resulted are not filed in any particular order but can be found in WO 208/3298 to 3327. Further alphabetised reports for escapes can be found in WO 208/5406 (Bradbury to Byrne) to 5436 (Zacharuk to Zywiczynski), and those who escaped to Switzerland are in WO 208/4238 (surnames Abbey to Ancell) to 4276 (Williams to Zwoerner). Also MI9 special questionnaires for British and American ex-POW can be found in WO 208/5437 (Aktinston to Butterworth) to 5450 (Upton to Young), and reports of prisoners who were liberated or escaped from Italian camps can be found in WO 208/5393 to 5405.
The Red Cross periodically visited each main camp and their associated work camps, and compiled detailed reports on the conditions there. A number of these are available as transcripts in the Reports section of this website, but these may not account for every report contained in the original file, and there are a great many camps for which I have yet to acquire any reports at all. These can be found in the WO 224 catalogue, ranging from WO 224/1 to 230, including German, Italian and Japanese camps. Histories of selective German camps can also be found in WO 208/3269 to 3296.
Axis Prisoners in British hands
Interrogation reports for German and Italian prisoners can be found in a variety of places, and as they are filed by the date of their interrogation and the organisation carrying it out, it is difficult to know where a specific file might be found. Nevertheless the Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre (UK) reports are in WO 208/3582 to 3620 (covering April 1942 to October 1945), and WO 208/4117 to 4197 (November 1939 to June 1944), with more UK based interrogations as well as those carried out in Africa and the Middle East in WO 208/5507 to 5574. There are also the POW Interrogation Section reports from WO 208/3621 to 3662 (spanning June 1944 to November 1945). Reports concerning air force personnel can also be found in AIR 40/2394 to 2431, while naval personnel are in ADM 186/806 to 809. Further information on the files held by the Archives relating to Axis prisoners in British hands can be read at https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/prisoners-of-war-british-hands/
The following pdf files contain what I hope to be a complete list of all Prisoner of War related material within a specific catalogue or series. More will follow as I complete them. ADM (Admiralty), AIR (Air Ministry).